You've got to admit, it's pretty brave to set your long running first-person shooter series in a time that means that you can't use guns. Although your weaponry has never been the focus in previous Far Cry games, it's hard to imagine the game being successful without any bullets flying.
Thankfully, Far Cry
has other highlights to turn to beyond shoot-outs. They've always been praised for their wildlife, crafting systems and open world exploration so if one series was going to go down this route, this is the one to do it.
The animal kingdom is the obvious place to focus in Far Cry Primal
. Set in the Stone Age, it allows us to see animals that we rarely get to see in games and taking advantage of that is what Primal
sets out to do from the start.
You play as Takkar of the Wenja tribe and although he might first appear to be a long way from Ajay and Jason from previous games, he has a lot in common with them. He's a man, down on his luck realising that he's more powerful than initially thought.
After being ambushed and left for dead by a sabretooth tiger, he makes his way back to his tribe before meeting a Shaman, getting all drugged up and honing his ability to play Dr Doolittle with the beasts that roam the world.
Your biggest threat soon becomes your most powerful ally as you tame more and more powerful animals and use them to take down rival tribes alongside your own primitive weaponry.
Your new-found furry friends start as decoys or a way to hide in the bushes as enemies drop in numbers without causing you a risk. But the first time you hear your oversized pet growl at a pack of wolves to protect you, your dried up little heart will start beating again...
Soon enough you'll have given him or her a name, will feel awful when they take a few hits for you and will stroke it even when it has no impact on the game itself. Don't get me wrong, you'll ditch your them the moment you're able to tame a better animal, but for those few moments in between it will feel like a true partnership. It quite literally felt like Turner and Hooch
The weapons themselves are limited and take a little while to get to grips with but again, like the animals, you'll find a favourite and stick with one. My personal favourite is the club, partly because it means you can take out a group of enemies with a single swing and partly because of the 'thunk' sound it makes as it cracks skulls.
Like previous games in the series, upgrading your character's abilities is essential. Here though, crafting is equally important. Whereas before you'd need to craft wallets to hold more money and belts to carry more money, in Primal
you need to craft new weapons to keep up with the fight. Finding yourself in the middle of a melee without any hardwood to make an arrow can be a deadly mistake.
Thankfully you wont be short of materials for long. They can be taken from their source, the landscape, taken from the bodies of the fallen or collected as daily rewards from the village you've built up.
I've never been a fan of base building in games like this. I barely touched it in Fallout 4
- it just seemed like too much effort for barely any reward. Primal
gets it right, though. In order to improve your home village you simply trade materials at areas that need improvement and in return you'll get new missions and bigger material deliveries daily.
You also need to populate your town to improve the strength of your clan. This is done by completing the side missions you stumble upon along the way. They're not thrilling, but with the chance of adding to your growing population you're more likely to stop and take part, especially as they take no longer than a few minutes to complete.
This leads to the part of the game that gripped me the most and kept me gaming until the early hours of the morning when I should have been getting an early night in. Setting off to explore the world as you while making your way to the next mission will often see you caught up doing anything but.
Whether it's stumbling across a new or rare animal or simply wondering what's over the hill in the distance, you'll take a glance at your map and notice that you're further away from your waypoint than when you began.
This is helped by the fact that Primal
is far less linear than the series has previously been. There's not an obvious way through the mission structure and unlocking quest givers isn't done in turn. It feels more Grand Theft Auto
than Assassin's Creed
in this regard and never feels like it's pushing you in a direction you don't want to go just to progress the story.
Traversal is something that appears to be a step back from what we're used to. Obviously there are no vehicles, but there's no Lara Croft-like heroic scaling of large cliffs either. It's surprising how much this slows the pace down, but where in other games you just want to get to where you're going quickly, the walking pace this game offers allows you to really soak in the atmosphere.
The audio in Primal
is the best the series has ever offered. The music has been all but removed, saving for special moments where you find yourself in intense fights, meaning that the majority of your play time will be backdropped with the natural soundtrack of the forest.
It's filled with animal noises warning of the danger around you, rustling trees and chanting tribes echoing off of rocks and cliffs. Without the need of a perk, you'll naturally become accustomed to the sound around you and adjust your actions to suit. You'll avoid bushes if you hear a snake hissing of dive in them when you hear a lion roar.
As for the visuals, it's easily one of the best-looking games I've played on the PS4. From the claustrophobic forests packed with foliage lit by the sun beaming through the cracks between high trees to open vistas from the top of snowy mountains. It doesn't take long before the next jaw-dropping vista fills the screen. It left me cursing the lazy neandertals for not getting off their arses and inventing photography.
Although this adds to why I enjoyed my time with Far Cry Primal
it's not the main reason for my addiction. There's always something to do, something to work towards and you're constantly rewarded for playing. Whether it's unlocking new abilities, crafting better weapons or even just taking in the sights, the game never feels like it's wasting your time.
And as you play, you'll notice that things build at a steady pace. By the end you'll feel as though you own the world around you. You're king of the jungle riding about on the back of a mammoth, spearing predators that once had you crouched behind a tree and praying for your life.
It's a slow build, confident that the player will get there and not need instant godlike status from the get-go to keep them interested, and the best the game has to offer is locked away behind hours of struggle meaning that when you get there, you'll have deserved it.
Some of the complaints I've read have been valid. Maybe things would have felt a little less like blueprint Far Cry
had the map not been littered with icons (or even if it had been removed completely). It's possible that a few animations could have been changed to avoid obvious cut and paste allegations from those who get wound up by that stuff. But ultimately there's nothing that takes away from what is an immersive, fun and unique experience.
+ Good looking
+ Great sounding
+ Fun to play
- Only slightly too reliant to the series' tropes
SPOnG Score: 9/10